The Next Killing Fields

Scott Johnson of Power Line has an excellent piece on how history is repeating itself in terms of Iraq and Vietnam. Johnson notes the British journalist William Shawcross’ (a former anti-Vietnam war protestor) realization that the American withdrawal from Vietnam had an unimaginable human cost throughout Southeast Asia:

Those of us who opposed the American war in Indochina should be extremely humble in the face of the appalling aftermath: a form of genocide in Cambodia and horrific tyranny in both Vietnam and Laos. Looking back on my own coverage for The Sunday Times…,I think I concentrated too easily on the corruption and incompetence of the South Vietnamese and their American allies, was too ignorant of the inhuman Hanoi regime, and far too willing to believe that a victory by the Communists would provide a better future. But after the Communist victory came the refugees to Thailand and the floods of boat people desperately seeking to escape the Cambodian killing fields and the Vietnamese gulags. Their eloquent testimony should have put paid to all illusions.

Yet, it seems as though some have utterly failed to learn from history, as the President’s recent comparison between Iraq and Vietnam has touched off a firestorm of controversy.

What is truly disgusting is the reaction of The New York Times:

In urging Americans to stay the course in Iraq, Mr. Bush is challenging the historical memory that the pullout from Vietnam had few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies.

Only a few negative repercussions: a few million “disappearances”, “reeducation camps” in Vietnam, 2 million dead Cambodians, hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes and flee their country on rickety boats to whatever freedom they could find — not all surviving the trip.

It’s precisely that kind of historical ignorance that damns us — and the next killing fields could well be in Iraq. At least men like William Shawcross have the intellectual honesty to face up to the consequences of their actions.

A precipitous US withdrawal would lead to yet another few million dead: as Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias like Jaish-al-Mahdi attempt to ethnically cleanse Iraq’s Sunni population, the Sunnis would have no choice but to ally with al-Qaeda to defend themselves against such attacks. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdistan would face a flood of Sunni refugees, destabilizing that region as well. Given the tensions between Iran and Iraqi Kurds, it is quite possible that Kurdistan would face the double threat of Iran and Turkey both desiring to ensure that the Kurds do not obtain anything resembling full independence.

The consequences of a withdrawal would be as tragic as what happened to the people of Indochina in the wake of the Vietnam War — a consequence that is still preventable. Leaving Iraq to be torn apart and trampled by its neighbors is an idiotic solution — sooner or later the consequences will catch up to us. Vietnam did not sit at one of the most strategically important regions of the world, Iraq does. Instability in Iraq will spread throughout the region, which will have major impacts on the world economy, embolden terrorist groups, and will lead to a humanitarian crisis on a national scale. The debate should not be how quickly we should run away from Iraq — but how best to get Iraq into a state where it can be independent and secure. Unfortunately, once again, crude partisan politics threatens yet another preventable genocide.

3 thoughts on “The Next Killing Fields

  1. “What is truly disgusting is the reaction of The New York Times:”

    No, what’s truly disgusting is that people like yourself who arrogantly endorsed the kickoff of the biggest foreign policy mistake since Hannibal forgot the siege equipment on his march to Rome are now just as arrogantly lecturing those desperately trying to clean up your mess how disgusting THEY are.

    Unfortunately, it’s getting to be an almost unanimous consensus among the American people who got duped before by people like you that “yer opinion don’t mean shit”.

  2. Mark, the only people being duped these days are you and your Marxist friends. The Democrat leadership supports and will continue to support this “biggest foreign policy mistake” because they have no alternative and recognize, as they always have, the strategic imperatives of American interests in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. That is precisely why, surge or no surge, the Democrat leadership and its media punditry are now saying the war is winnable as we move ever closer to the elections. They blame Maliki now, not Bush, because they know they cannot win without moving to the center. All they want from you and your ilk is your money and volunteerism. If elected, Hillary is not going to be the president who lost Iraq. She is not going to be the president who surrendered to al-Qaeda. She is not going to be the president, as Jimmy Carter was, who betrayed American interests in the Middle East and pitched the American economy into a nightmare of gas lines, soaring inflation, and record unemployment.

    But do keep up the good work. The more people realize just how unrealistic, cavalier, and irresponsible the Democrat leadership has been on the war in Iraq, the less likely they are to be trusted with our national security. And that’s a good thing.

  3. No, what’s truly disgusting is that people like yourself who arrogantly endorsed the kickoff of the biggest foreign policy mistake since Hannibal forgot the siege equipment on his march to Rome are now just as arrogantly lecturing those desperately trying to clean up your mess how disgusting THEY are.

    OK, wait, this is exactly what I mean when I say that liberals are clueless about history, especially military history.

    Hannibal didn’t “forget” his seige equipment on the march to Rome, he crossed the Alps with it and lost it because the winter was unusually cold and stormy. He made it into Italy where he engaged the Romans at the River Trebia, and managed to slaughter the Romans, doing the same at Trasemene and Cannae. However, he lost most of his elephants during those battles.

    The reason why Hannibal never sacked Rome wasn’t because he didn’t have the ability to do it, it’s because the Romans didn’t give up. (One wonders what a Consul Nancious Pelosii would have done under similar circumstances — I’d guess probably brushing up on her Phoenician.) Instead, Rome and its allies reinforced each other and would not give in.

    Adding to Hannibal’s troubles, the Carthiginians didn’t reinforce him. Instead they “strategically redeployed” to where the “real war” was in Hispania, which meant that Hannibal had no reinforcement and no way of defeating the Romans.

    And in fact, it was Publius Cornelius Scipio’s “clear and hold” strategy of cutting off reinforcements by making alliances with tribes along Hannibal’s resupply lines that ultimately ended the war. After the Battle of the Metaurus, the Carthiginians were forced to turn back and eventually the Romans followed them home to Carthage, defeating them at the Battle of Zama and ending the Second Punic War (before sacking and burning Carthage in the Third). In fact, it was that dreaded Roman “neoconservative” Cato the Elder that ended every single speech with “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delenda.”

    So, not only is your metaphor just plain wrong, but it actually undercuts your entire argument. Perhaps you should have read Victor Davis Hanson’s “Carnage and Culture” — and then you’d have understood why you seem to know about as much about the Iraq War as you apparently do about the Second Punic War.

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